Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday February 4, 2017
In light of Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau is clearing the decks.
The prime minister is ditching complicated and politically difficult aspects of his agenda in order to focus on the mercurial U.S. President.
That’s the context for Trudeau’s dramatic about-face this week on electoral reform.
It also helps explain why he put the kibosh Wednesday to suggestions the government might tax employee health and dental benefits.
In that case, he publicly undercut Finance Minister Bill Morneau who, in his review of pricey tax breaks, has been deliberately noncommittal about such a move.
A political fight over a popular tax break is the last thing the Liberal government wants now.
Nor, apparently, does it want to spend time and energy on an issue, like electoral reform, that polls suggest most Canadians don’t much care about.
Ottawa has always been sensitive to political ebbs and flows in the U.S. During the 2015 election campaign that brought him to power, Trudeau promised to be even more Washington-focused.
But Trump’s election victory has presented Canada’s government with a host of new problems.
First and foremost is the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump’s insistence on a renegotiation of that pact could, in the short run at least, devastate portions of the Canadian economy.
As well, Trump’s ambitious public works promises, if affected, could put upward pressure on interest rates. That in turn could raise the cost of Trudeau’s proposed public investments.
Trump is also musing about a 20 per cent border adjustment tax on exports to the U.S., including, presumably, exports from Canada.
His decision to ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. threw Ottawa into a tizzy, one that was only partially resolved when the Americans agreed to exempt dual nationals holding Canadian passports. (Source: Toronto Star)